Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

Howdy everybody!

Iain here today. With November in full swing and the weather getting... well it's not actually getting much colder at the moment (damn you global warming!!), but in any case, it's time for some cold weather, warm-you-up-on-the-inside dishes. This one is an old favorite (I think it's the old Scottish blood that keeps me coming back. I'm probably compensating for the fact that I have no sheep of my own to raise) that my family makes back home in Chicago with sage grown from our own back yard. Since I have depleted my supply of said sage, I got some from our friends Annika and Dakota, who have been farming and gardening like crazy down in Northfield, so yay them!

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

4-8 medium potatoes (depending on potato size and how thick you want the potato layer)
2 cups dry green lentils
1 medium onion
At least1 tbs of crushed, dried sage
A healthy pinch of oregano
A pinch of cayenne

2 medium or large pots
wooden spoon
potato masher or fork
1 baking pan (about 9x13 works well)
rubber spatula
knife and cutting board

Music Listened To:
I think I had a Cherish the Ladies Pandora station going...

Step 1: Prep. Start by putting the lentils in a pot and submerging in water. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour. Give them plenty of water to start with, but if they dry up halfway through, submerge them again. Once that's going, peel and chop the potatoes and start them boiling in the other pot. Leave them to boil for at least 10 minutes. In the meantime, dice the onion.

Step 2: Assemble. Preheat the oven to 350. The potatoes should be done before the lentils. Drain them and mash with salt, milk and butter to your preferences. The more butter, the better the top will brown. I also tend to whisk them for a little fluff. When the lentils are done, drain them and mash with the onion, sage, oregano, salt and cayenne. You don't want them to become a paste - just a little cohesive. Spread the lentils on the bottom of the pan. Spread the potatoes on top, being careful not to mix with the lentils or churn things up. A delicate touch is necessary here. If you have some cooking spray, spraying a little on the top can help browning as well.

Step 3: Bake. In the words of the great Jamie Oliver, whack it in the oven for 20 minutes. You don't really need anything but the onion to cook, per se, you just need everything to come together. At the end, turn the oven to broil and open the oven door to keep an eye on things. As soon as you see the top beginning to turn brown, pull it out (if you wait too long, it can go black in seconds). Serve up and enjoy!

You can modify this recipe however you like. I know some people really enjoy carrots and peas mixed in with their shepherd's pie. My housemates seem to think cheese is an appropirate ingredient, which just confuses me... Obviously, if you are a carnivore, feel free to make this with ground beef or lamb, which is the original way to do it, but don't turn up your nose at the way of the lentil! While I enjoy beef shepherd's pie from The Celtic Knot pub in Evanston, IL, I always opt for the lentils when I make it myself because of their amazing flavor. I recommend serving this with a green salad and a good ale. Good times! Cheers!


  1. Why thank you, sdl! :-p

  2. Iain, how could you take the cherished seeds of our family's secret recipes and sow them in the oh-too-fecund soil of the Internet? How could you betray our tight-clenched knowledge to the prying eyes of the multitude? How could you do this to your family, Iain? How . . . could you?